SOURCE: Allsup

Allsup

November 18, 2013 09:30 ET

Allsup Outlines Five Last-Minute Tips for Medicare Annual Enrollment

Medicare Participants Have Limited Options When Annual Open Enrollment Closes Dec. 7

BELLEVILLE, IL--(Marketwired - Nov 18, 2013) -  People who want to switch their Medicare coverage for 2014 have just a few weeks left in the Medicare annual open enrollment period that ends Dec. 7, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of Medicare plan selection services. If they don't act now, most will have limited opportunities to change plans in 2014, such as changing to a 5-star Medicare Advantage or Part D plan -- if one is available in their area.

"For the vast majority of the 50 million Medicare beneficiaries, the next few weeks are their main opportunity to make changes to their coverage for 2014," said Paula Muschler, operations manager of the Allsup Medicare Advisor®, a Medicare plan selection service. Allsup Medicare Advisor offers personalized help that includes customized research and enrollment assistance.

"The choices can be overwhelming, but there are practical steps people can take to make sure they have the coverage they need come Jan. 1," Muschler added.

Five Last-Minute Tips for Medicare Participants

1. Identify and prioritize healthcare needs and budget. Participants should outline their medical and prescription drug needs for next year, including medications and physicians. Then also examine their expenses for next year and what they would like to pay for healthcare. "Too often, people focus on comparing their current plan to other plan options rather than focusing first on their needs," Muschler said. "One result is that unimportant matters factor into your choices."

2. Compare options under Medicare Advantage as well as Original Medicare. "The first plan decision people need to make is whether they want to use Original Medicare with prescription drug coverage or if they want to use a Medicare Advantage plan," Muschler said. "If supplemental coverage, or Medigap, is a priority, this also factors into their decision." Individuals choose Medicare Advantage over Original Medicare for a number of reasons, including costs and coverage options.

3. Evaluate more than just the premiums when checking costs against budget. Along with premiums, plan co-pays and deductibles can vary. Also, some plans may put restrictions on drug quantities or have preferred pharmacies, all of which can affect how much someone pays out-of-pocket for their healthcare needs. "Look at how you are likely to use your coverage," Muschler said. "Do you go to the doctor frequently and, therefore, your co-pays could add up? Are your medications covered under your plan and what is the co-pay? These factors need to be counted in the cost equation."

4. Consider Medicare plan quality ratings and features, but within reason. Medicare gives each plan a rating of one to five stars. A 5-star rating means that Medicare rates the plan as offering excellent quality to its members. The quality rating provides important information, but individuals also need to ensure the plan provides the coverage they need at a price they can afford. For example, a 5-star Medicare Advantage plan may not work for someone if their doctor does not participate in it. A 5-star prescription drug plan may not work well if the medication co-pays are extremely high for the beneficiary. In addition, Medicare does not rate new plans since they don't have enough information about these plans.

5. If choosing a Medicare plan is overwhelming, ask for help. Many people do not realize that there are unbiased resources available to offer help. "Just as people use an accountant for taxes or a financial advisor for financial planning, they're relieved to learn that there are Medicare plan selection services like Allsup that can offer them impartial help in choosing a Medicare plan," said Muschler.

Options to Change Medicare Plans are Limited After Dec. 7

The Medicare annual enrollment period offers Medicare beneficiaries the most flexibility in changing their Medicare plans to best meet their needs. Following the Dec. 7 deadline, individuals may be able to change their coverage in specific circumstances.

These enrollment periods include:

  • 5-Star Special Enrollment Period: Dec. 8-Nov. 30. Anyone in a plan with less than 5 stars may switch once to a 5-star plan -- for Medicare Advantage and prescription drug Part D coverage. Note: There are fewer than 100 5-star plan providers nationwide, and many people do not have plans in their area.
  • Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period: Jan. 1 - Feb. 14. Individuals can disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and enroll in Original Medicare along with a Part D plan. Note: Participants may not be guaranteed access to supplemental Medigap coverage.
  • General Enrollment Period: Jan. 1 - March 31, with enrollment effective July 1. Individuals can join Medicare Part B if they did not join when first eligible. Note: If prior coverage was not as good as or better than Medicare, the person may be subject to penalties for as long as they have Medicare coverage.

Additional special enrollment periods are offered. Examples include when someone moves out of a plan's service area; loses certain coverage; or joins Medicare Part B (medical insurance) for the first time after losing group health coverage.

For an evaluation of Medicare options, call an Allsup Medicare Advisor specialist at (866) 521-7655 or visit Medicare.Allsup.com to learn more about the service.

The Allsup Medicare Advisor also has features that help financial advisors guide their clients to the Medicare plans that match their specific lifestyles and healthcare needs. Employers also use Allsup Medicare Advisor for their employees who are retiring and transitioning to Medicare. For more information, go to FinancialAdvisor.Allsup.com, or call (888) 220-9678.

ABOUT ALLSUP
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, veterans disability appeal, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Allsup professionals deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. Founded in 1984, the company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, go to http://www.Allsup.com or visit Allsup on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Allsupinc.

The information provided is not intended as a substitute for legal or other professional services. Legal or other expert assistance should be sought before making any decision that may affect your situation.

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